Plenty of people are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon, but before you decide if it’s the right choice for you, consider the different gluten and wheat-related allergies and intolerances.
Wheat allergies and celiac disease are often used interchangeably. However, the two ailments are different. Wheat allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in wheat. One of those proteins is gluten, but you may also be allergic to other proteins found in wheat including albumin, globulin, and gliadin.
The following are common symptoms of wheat allergy:
- Swelling and itching of the mouth and throat
- Runny or stuffed-up nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting
Celiac disease (often called gluten intolerance) is different than wheat allergy. Rather than being an allergic reaction, it is an autoimmune disorder caused by gluten. When people who suffer from celiac disease eat food with gluten, their body unleashes an immune response that damages the small, hair-like villi that line the intestines. When the villi are compromised, so too is the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Celiac disease affects roughly one person per 100, and that figure appears to be rising. People with celiac disease suffer from varied symptoms which includes the following:
- Abdominal bloating, gas, diarrhea, pain, weight loss
- Dermatitis herpetiformis (blistering skin)
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Muscle cramps, joint and bone pain
- Mouth sores
- Irregular menstruation
If you suspect you have wheat allergies, see an allergist. Sublingual immunotherapy administered through under-the-tongue drops has been shown to be effective in desensitizing the body to wheat allergens. For celiac disease, start with your primary care physician for testing and diagnosis and guidance in adopting a gluten-free diet.